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Tony's book reviews

Every Tool's A Hammer: Life Is What You Make It

by Adam Savage

New York : Atria Books, 2019

ISBN-13 978-1982113476

This book is an odd mix of inspiration, technical advice, and autobiography. Savage is well known as host of Mythbusters and for creating various movie props. It’s quick read, with good graphics and layout. I hope members of my tool library find time to read it. I found it inspirational, no matter the mix of chapters: Some autobiography, and one chapter on glue. He describes his major sections as: 1. The motivation and physics of creativity; 2. Witnessing your own work; 3. Tolerance both in terms of measurement and in learning from failure; and 4. Organization of the workspace. He doesn’t present them as heavy duty concepts; you can just read the book. The inspiration it provides is very relevant to SKTL activity.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

by Mathew B. Crawford

Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)

ISBN-13: 978-0143117469

This is a book I’d like to send to all my education colleagues. There is real world wisdom gained in the trades that is seldom transmitted in academe. The author has his PhD in philosophy but runs a motorcycle repair shop. Promoting both making and repair the book pushes us away from mindless consumerism. Our Repair Café workers will appreciate the following quotation: “Because the stochastic arts diagnose and fix things that are variable and complex, and not of our own making, and therefore not fully knowable, they require a certain disposition toward the thing you are trying to fix. This disposition is at once cognitive and moral. Getting it right demands that you be attentive in the way of a conversation rather than assertive in the way of a demonstration. I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness. Things need fixing and tending no less than creating.” p.82

The author himself writes: “Some diagnostic situations contain so many variables, and symptoms can be so under-determining of causes, that explicit analytical reasoning comes up short. What is required then is the kind of judgment that arises only from experience; hunches rather than rules. I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank.”

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

by Peter Korn

Publisher: David R Godin

ISBN-13: 978-1567925463

Peter Korn’s book is primarily autobiographic but very readable. Despite, and in fact contrary to, his father’s admonition that “You’ll regret doing work that doesn’t challenge your mind,” Korn starts out as a carpenter, goes on to design and build furniture, and then teaches and runs schools of fine woodworking. In doing so, he finds a “mind-body wholeness” he thinks would be missing in the typical corporate environment. The book is not a tight fabric of philosophical conundrums but has enough serious insight to stay exciting: “Furniture, after all, is more than an object of contemplation; it is a prescription for the life to be lived around it.” p. 58

Korn’s ultimate musings on self-creation through craft include: “…I now see individuality as an illusion, the formation of identity as a full-time project, and thought as a phenomenon independent of language. Those wanting more directly philosophical treatment of these themes could read Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Korn, however, gives a full defense for our powering around fixing and making.


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